Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Charlie's Army

UND.com’s football page has links to a 4 diary entries written by head coach Charlie Weis to document his recent trip to the Middle East. The article’s are all relatively short, and there are a few touching moments about the coach’s experience meeting the troops that make the read worthwhile.

One theme
that stood out in all of the articles was the alarmingly large representation of Notre Dame fans over seas. The ND Bookstore donated several thousand 2007 student shirts (most of which Weis autographed), and they were readily accepted by the plethora of Notre Dame fans that coach encountered:

There were kids from South Bend. There were kids from Mishawaka, kids from Fort Wayne. [. . .] You’re in the middle of signing [autographs] for people in this long line, and you hear this voice saying “Yeah, I went to John Adams. If you’re going to my house, you turn off Twyckenham…” Here in the Middle of the desert!

In addition to home grown Irish fans, Weis also has several good stories about ND grads from the rest of the country that he ran into over the course of the trip. One of my favorite stories, however, was actually about a USC fan:

Not everyone here is a Notre Dame fan, now. I have run into a whole bunch of Michigan fans, but Saturday it was a USC fan who really got my attention. This USC fan has a wife who is a Notre Dame fan. She's back in Scranton, Pa. He comes up for a picture (Saturday) night. He's got on a USC football shirt, and I refused to take the picture with him.
He goes, "C'mon coach, you can't do me like that." I said, "I'll tell you what. I'll put it up for a vote. I'll put it up to your buddies, see what they think." So I said, "How many of you guys think I should take a picture with him with this USC football shirt?" Everyone's saying "Noooo. Nooo. Boo."
"How many think I shouldn't?" And everyone raises their hands. He went and put on the green Notre Dame shirt. He said, "My wife is going to rag me for the rest of my life." It was one of the more humorous moments of the trip.

Other highlights of the trip included orchestrating an NFL-combine simulation on the deck of an aircraft carrier, where soldiers tried to impress with their 40-yard dash times and bench reps. Weis also coached a flag football game with the other coaches who went on the trip with him (Georgia's Mark Richt, Auburn's Tommy Tuberville, Yale's Jack Siedlecki and Miami's Randy Shannon); the five of them seemed to have a great time:

Every single person over here is fired up about what they’re doing and why they’re here. It’s a very encouraging experience [. . .] If I were single, I wish this thing went on for a month. I could do this [for longer] but I miss my family.

If trips to the Middle East are at all correlated with regular season success, the Fighting Irish should be in pretty good shape for the Fall of 2008. After traveling to Kuwait to coach troops in a basketball tournament ("Operation Hardwood") last year, Mike Brey’s team overachieved on the court, finishing 2nd in the Big East, notching their first tournament win in several years, and finishing the season ranked 19th nationally.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Quote of the Week

No, that's not a typo, the quote of the week is back. While the segment has been MIA for a long time, I found some time after packing/leaving school and starting my summer job to dig up a moderately respectable Notre Dame related quote: after the first few days of OTA's, the Browns team site gave a shoutout to undrafted free agent signee Travis Thomas.

"The team also added two rookie running backs following the draft this year in Notre Dame's Travis Thomas and Penn State's Austin Scott, who looked impressive in rookie minicamp."

This is coming from a team site that made 7th round draft pick Alex Hall seem like the next Julius Peppers, but it is always nice to hear that an Irish player is holding his own in the big leagues. If TT keeps up the good work, he might even get a chance to switch back to defense as one of the Browns' three remaining cornerbacks sustained a season ending knee injury in practice yesterday...

UHND.com dug up a screenshot of the top players on ND's roster for the upcoming NCAA 2009 video game, and as always, there a few major head scratchers. In the 2008 game, I was able to tear it up with DE #90 (who was black), and a speedy white runningback (#25) that led me to a national championship while winning the Heisman. This year's roster seems to be more of the same.
Sam, Mo, and Bruton seem like decently fair choices for the top three, but the players underneath are questionable to say the least. Paul Duncan and James Aldridge will both be fighting for playing time next season, and to be honest, I would be mildly surprised if either of them got more than 4 or 5 starts next year. And it is a crime to put Schwapp ahead of some other players on next season's roster; UHND put it well when they asked "Who does Schwapp know at EA sports?"

My last gripe about these rankings is Sam Young's break tackle. At only a measly 65, the EA game creators obviously never saw him returning punts in spring practice.

Go Irish!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Another Random Rant

On NFL last night, the analyst team spent a good ten minutes of their twenty minute segment talking about the apocalyptic (or insignificant?) ramifications of the infamous SPYGATE case. Midway through their crucially important analysis, the cast played an audio clip from Tom Brady, sharing his comments about the investigation:
(I was watching on an analogue TV, so this is very paraphrased)

"This is not that big of a deal to me or any of the players. I feel that ESPN has spun this issue way out of proportion; it's getting to the point now where ESPN is spending about as much time covering sports as MTV is covering music"

I was personally very surprised that ESPN would allow such brand bashing material on the air; it was fresh to hear a voice challenging the system. Of course, however, Trey Wingo was there to back the network as soon as the audio clip had finished:

"The first question that [the radio network] asked Brady was if he had seen any of the ESPN coverage and he said that he hadn't"

That seemed fair for Wingo to put Brady's perspective in context, but before the end of NFL Live's spygate segment, Wingo went off on a pretty half hearted quasi rant that inspired this post, saying something along the lines of:

"ESPN didn't accuse the Patriots of cheating, ESPN didn't take the tapes from them after the Jets game, the NFL did. So if you have a beef, Tom Brady, take it up with the League, not ESPN."

Immediately after Trey finished that sentence, network programming irony seemed to back Brady when Wingo's sidekicks began to lead into the next 'sports story' about some retired athlete's most recent performance on Dancing With The Stars.

Trey, I understand that ESPN is just the messenger, but as a monopolistic television network, ESPN does control how its messages are delivered. The truth is that ESPN has become very watered down; for every time an analyst takes the time to break down film and reveal something meaningful, there are twice as many squirrels on waterskies as there were before ESPN joined the Disney family. Is it wrong that I prefer Bob Knight boldly talking basketball instead of cracking superficial jokes about how bad his bracket is or what he shot on the golf course last week? I'm tired of ESPN cutting away from the Cavs game to tell the viewers what is playing on their family of networks. I'm tired of announcers taking time away from the game to talk about things more people can relate to.

The truth is, Trey, that while you may not personally be responsible for forcing the Patriots organization to deal with the plethora of media attention that they are receiving now, the ESPN network has given the issue much more coverage than it needs. Was the punishment just? Should congress get involved? Take two minutes to update the viewers on what is happening and let them fight it out in bars and message boards. Don't cut time from game highlights to rattle off opinions that normal people can come up with themselves.

Currently, basketball and hockey are in the middle of the playoffs, interleague play is about to start in baseball, and OTAs are starting all over the NFL, so (while it may be so in the college football world) it is inexcusable to play the "there's nothing else to cover" card. Brady didn't have to watch any of the ESPN coverage to comment on it. He knows that the network is milking the issue for all that it is worth because that's what ESPN does.

Please, CSTV or someone, grow enough so that people who want to watch sports coverage for coverage on the games have an alternate station to turn to.

In closing, and in order to relate this article to Irish football, when asked to comment on spygate, Weis declined to comment, justifying his decision by explaining that "the issue does not involve Notre Dame," which in my opinion, is the way ESPN should approach the issue. Tell us if the Pats get punished, let us know if they are under federal investigation, but don't spend time on it to the point that it cuts into real sports coverage.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Christman, Kemp Lift ND in Tourney Win

As if talking about Notre Dame basketball wasn't bad enough, I had to take this opportunity to stray further from the gridiron to issue props to ND's athletes that play the best spring sport in the country. I'm talking of course about men's lacrosse, which combines big hits and high scoring with some screwy rules that mesh together to create a sport that has rapidly grown in popularity over the last decade and is invading ESPNU during football's offseason.

Most Nasties readers probably most closely associate Irish lacrosse with TE Will Yeatman, and even though the freshman all-american missed the season with a suspension, Notre Dame has plenty of other great players around him. The last two seasons, ND has experienced some tough first round draws in the tournament, falling to Virginia in 2006 and taking Johns Hopkins to overtime before leaving the tournament in 2007. Both UVA and Hopkins would go on to win the national championship after beating the Irish.It was with this tournament background, not advancing since 2001, that Notre Dame entered the 2008 men's tournament, and at a rain soaked Alumni Field, it looked like ND might have been in for some more heartbreak. Patriot League (that's a good league in lacrosse) champs, Colgate, got off to the better start, relying on excellent goalkeeping from Tim Harrington (18 saves) to jump out to a 5-2 halftime lead.

Notre Dame's usually potent offense struggled to find the net in the sloppy conditions, but the team rallied back slowly in the second half behind some key Joey Kemp saves to set the stage for a great finish. Down 6-7 with 1:30 to go in the fourth quarter (it's got quarters, just like football), senior Michael 'Pojo' Podgajny snuck through the Raider defense with two nasty face dodges to score the equalizer. Junior Peter Christman took advantage of a small window to rope a shot from GLE past the keeper and into the top left corner of the net to extend ND's home winning streak to 19 and advance them to the quarterfinals. Eight different Irish players scored in the contest; the final score of 8-7 was the first time Notre Dame had the lead all game.

The Irish pile on Christman after his game winner

Monday, May 5, 2008

Papa Johns = Twofaced

I mentioned a few posts ago that Papa Johns would probably regret fashioning a bunch on 'crybaby 23' shirts for game 6 of the Cavs Wizards series, and as predicted, Papa John is now feeling sorry for his actions.
"Papa John's Pizza issued an apology to Cleveland and the Cavaliers for making T-shirts with LeBron James' number and the word "crybaby" under it.

To apologize, Papa John's will sell Cleveland residents a large, one-topping pizza for 23 cents on Thursday. The 23 is an homage to James' jersey number. The company also will donate $10,000 to the Cavaliers Youth Fund."

Unfortunately for Papa John and his pizza franchise, negative publicity travels much faster than post-facto PR stunts, especially in the internet age. A brief search on 'the face' brings up such groups as "LeBron is a crybaby??? Screw you Papa Johns" and "Cavs fans that will never eat Papa Johns again" all which already have hundreds of members and are growing. Withleather.com puts the whole situation in a positive perspective in its usual comical fashion, but it looks like the young Cleveland college kids that usually live off of pizza aren't too happy.

And now for something completely different, Go Irish!

Hooray Finals

Alright, the tests are underway. Now if I could just find a way to get to them...

Saturday, May 3, 2008


Having three papers due in a span of five days somewhat impeded my desire to write anything for a few days, but now that classes are done for the semester, and before I work up the motivation to seriously lock into finals studying mode, I thought I'd take some time to share a few thoughts about the sports world.
  • Congrats to the four Irishmen drafted last weekend. Now I have a reason to watch Eagles games other than being able to listen to my roommate belt out their fight song; Trevor Laws will be teaming up with Abiamiri on the defensive line, and it will be exciting to see the birds pair of second round draft picks develop into a brutal stopping force. Another ND pair was made when the Seahawks drafted John Carlson to block for newly acquired runningback Julius Jones; this should be fun to watch just because Jones will likely be the feature back instead of splitting carries while Carlson should be able to make some plays downfield. Zibby will fight for a job in the return game, but he and Sullivan will likely be watching from the sidelines and learn from the experienced veterans at their position.
  • Also, congrats to the ND players that signed contracts after the draft. Brockington and Jansen signed with the Bills and Packers, respectively, and Travis Thomas signed with his former teammate Brady Quinn and the Cleveland Browns. With Lewis, Wright, and Harrison at runningback, TT will not likely see any carries soon, but his hard work ethic should allow him to compete for a special teams spot.

  • In other Browns news, this weekend's rookie minicamp will feature the team's 5 draft picks, 15 signed free agents, and 54 walk ons; apparently, the Browns invited any eligible football player who went to school in Ohio. I know that you need bodies to have a practice, but it seems a little odd to send invites to everyone at Oberlin College.

  • On the hardwood, Mike Brey named the first recipient of the Skip Prosser Man of the Year Award last month. Besides earning the award, Brey also likely feels good about winning the battle over Purdue and Oklahoma State to secure Mississippi State transfer Ben Hansbrough. Psycho B will have to sit out a year, but the shooting guard brings depth and NCAA tourney experience that will help push Jackson and McAlarney in practice next season.
  • In other roundball news, has anyone been watching the Cavs Wizards series? I'm not a huge NBA fan, but I can't help but wonder how the entire Wizards arena can boo LeBron every time he touches the ball; they even booed when he was helping Wizards player get up after they had been fouled. What is most surprising, perhaps, is that Papa Johns sponsored a 'Crybaby 23' shirt that was being displayed by several fans in last night's game. I doubt that the shirts will cause a very significant spike in D.C. sales, but I would be surprised if it didn't have a negative effect in the Cleveland area. I guess dropping 27, 13, and 13 while blowing out a team at home in an elimination game is a pretty good way to get them to shut up with the stupid smack talk.
  • Lastly, for those of you that don't already check out NDLNA on a regular basis, there is a great rant from the Rock Report that responds to a New York Times article that basically labels Notre Dame as a strong arming bully for refusing to play a true home and away series against Rutgers in the upcoming years. The Rock's post does a nice job of throwing cold water over the Times' argument, but if you have the time for it, I also recommend reading the comments at the bottom of the Rock's post as there is some great stuff there.

Off to studying... Go Irish!